Milwaukee Film Blog

posted by Blyth on January 8th, 2014

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We'd like to extend a warm welcome to Jaclyn O'Grady, who is joining the Milwaukee Film staff this week as our new Programming Manager. 


Jaclyn joins Milwaukee Film from the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City, where she worked most recently for the New Directors/New Films festival as Submissions Coordinator. Originally from River Falls, Wisconsin, O’Grady graduated from the University of Minnesota where she received a B.A. in Studies in Cinema and Media Culture, with a minor in Architecture. Over the last five years, O’Grady has worked in various capacities for prestigious film festivals worldwide, including the Sundance Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Doha Tribeca Film Festival, and San Francisco International Film Festival. Her experience has ranged from festival print traffic, hospitality, and call for entries to box office, venue management, and membership. As Programming Manager of Milwaukee Film, she will have responsibility for executing programming logistics for the annual festival and monthly members-only screenings.


“I’m really looking forward to working with Jaclyn to execute this year’s programming slate,” continues Jackson. “A 15-day festival has a lot of moving parts, and I’m confident her strong festival background in both programming and operations departments will be a great fit for us here in Milwaukee.”


We're thrilled to have Jaclyn on our team!


posted by Milan on January 2nd, 2014

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The Vivian Maier Mystery (available digitally) 
(dir. Jill Nicholls, USA, 2013) 
While working on a book about Chicago's Portage Park neighborhood, 26-year-old John Maloof bought the contents of an auctioned-off storage locker. The locker's original owner? Vivian Maier. The contents? Roughly 30,000 prints and negatives of photographs she shot. But Maier was not a famous photographer at the time. She was an absolute mystery. And shortly after her death, her story began to unravel. Though many details about her life remain unknown, she did spend about 40 years as a nanny. And during it all, she took hundreds of thousands of photographs, many of them never printed or published in her lifetime. The Vivian Maier Mystery, co-executive produced by Milwaukee Film Festival alums Jeff Kurz (I Am, 2013) and Jack Turner (We Are What We Are, 2013; The Jeffrey Dahmer Files, 2012), explores the life and work of this late, unknown street photographer. The film is currently available digitally, via iTunes,AmazonXboxVudu, and Playstation
Watch the trailer for The Vivian Maier Mystery here.

The Act of Killing on DVD (available Tue, Jan 6) 
(dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark/Norway/United Kingdom, 2012) 
Unlike anything that has ever come before it, The Act of Killing (MFF 2013) is an examination of the idea that history is written by its victors. Joshua Oppenheimer’s spectacular provocation hinges on a shocking experiment: giving those responsible for the mass killing of nearly a million “communist” criminals in Indonesia the opportunity to recreate their horrific deeds in the manner of the film entertainment they love so dearly. Brought to you by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris (two men who know from audacious documentaries), The Act of Killing is a documentary experience that won’t be soon forgotten. 
Watch the trailer for The Act of Killing here.

We Are What We Are on DVD (available Tue, Jan 6) 
(dir. Jim Mickle, USA, 2013) 
In the wake of the family matriarch’s untimely passing, father Frank Parker tasks his teenage daughters Iris and Rose with taking up her role in the family’s sacred traditions. However, the young women find themselves questioning these rituals as a local doctor begins uncovering the truth about what happens behind the Parkers’ closed doors. The latest film produced by Whitefish Bay native Jack Turner (ME @ THE ZOO, MFF 2012) is a slow-burn descent into sheer terror tailor-made for fans of 2009 festival favorite The House of the DevilWe Are What We Are (MFF 2013) methodically amps the suspense on this American Gothic to almost-unbearable levels before unleashing a cavalcade of violence that will leave even the most battle-hardened horror fanatic feeling queasy. 
Watch the trailer for We Are What We Are here.

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posted by Jonathan on January 1st, 2014

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Stories We Tell

We kick off the new year with the conclusion of our year-end staff favorites. And who better to wrap up all this fun than Artistic and Executive Director Jonathan Jackson. 

2013 was an amazing year for cinema, especially that which blurred the line between fiction and documentary. This year that line seemed to blur further than ever, even seeming to disappear entirely at times. (As was the case with my favorite film of the year.) And while blockbuster sequels and television may be distracting the best in Hollywood, the film medium is more accessible and nimble than ever before, and ripe with makers creating some of the greatest, risk-taking and original cinema found worldwide.

10. Mud
(dir. Jeff Nichols)
Jeff Nichols' follow-up to Take Shelter is no less than an attempt to create the Great American Novel on screen. I wish more American independent films had this much ambition.

9. Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington
(dir. Sebastian Junger)
One of the greatest eulogies ever delivered, Sebastian Junger’s taut documentary serves as the perfect introduction to the life and work of photojournalist and artist Tim Hetherington.

8. The Act of Killing
(dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)
Joshua Oppenheimer’s eight years in the making documentary is the closest I imagine one can come to getting inside the heads of mass murderers.

7. Amour
(dir. Michael Haneke)
Austrian master Michael Haneke’s exquisitely crafted and acted look at life’s end is as emotionally wrenching as it is intellectually rewarding.

6. The Crash Reel
(dir. Lucy Walker)
This serious-minded extreme sports documentary unexpectedly becomes a moving study of family dynamics and existential drive.

5. Upstream Color
(dir. Shane Carruth)
This modern day Walden is a sensory experience that only cinema could deliver.

4. Zero Dark Thirty
(dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
This first-rate, slow-burn thriller delivers the true-life story of the discovery and murder of America’s public enemy number one with the complexity it warrants.

3. American Hustle
(dir. David O. Russell)
An unwieldy and wildly entertaining acting showcase that revels in a Hollywood version of American life at the end of the ‘70s, American Hustle features my favorite performance of the year: Christian Bale as con man Irving Rosenfeld.

2. Before Midnight
(dir. Richard Linklater)
Three artists collaborating at the height of their powers, director Richard Linklater and stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke come together to create the greatest sequel in the history of cinema and to prove ultimately that in cinema, like in life, a great conversation can be more thrilling than an explosion.

1. Stories We Tell
(dir. Sarah Polley)
More personal essay than traditional documentary, Sarah Polley’s brilliantly crafted meditation on memory, truth and family was my favorite film of the year because it told me more about human nature than any other film, while simultaneously expanding the possibilities of storytelling in the medium.

10 HONORABLE MENTIONS: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Beyond the Hills, Drug War, Gravity, The Great Beauty, In the House, Lore, Muscle Shoals, Short Term 12, and War Witch.

WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR, BECAUSE I HAVEN'T SEEN THESE YET: 12 Years a Slave, All is Lost, Computer Chess, and Inside Llewyn Davis.

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Blyth, our Marketing Director
Milan, our Marketing Coordinator

• Kyle, our Managing Director
• Kristopher, our Membership Coordinator
• Benjamin, our Development Director
• Anna, our Shorts Programmer
• Angela, our Programming Manager



posted by Blyth on December 31st, 2013

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Marketing Director Blyth loves films. She loves watching them. She loves making them. She even hosts a radio show about them. Here's her year-end list!

In no particular order, here’s the films I saw in 2013 that profoundly moved me.

(dir: Claire Denis)
Denis’ latest crime thriller Bastards can be seen as a companion piece to her 2008 film 35 Shots of Rum--both of which are examinations of the complexity and fragility of familial relationships. But where the earlier film was focused solely and deeply on love, this new film delves into the much more complicated territory of suicide, incest and sexual slavery. I hesitate to spell out any more of the film than that, since it is such a powerful viewing experience. Like almost all of her films, Denis collaborates with the incomparable Agnes Godard behind the camera (their first together on digital video) and Tindersticks to create a tension-filled (and slightly creepy) score.  

Frances Ha
(dir: Noah Baumbach)
Hitting so many right notes about women’s experiences, friendships, and growing up, this collaboration between (now partners) Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig is steeped in joy, even when the characters are in existential crisis. Who doesn’t want to run/dance through the crosswalks of Manhattan to the soundtrack of David Bowie’s “Modern Love”? Sounds like the perfect day to me. Gerwig creates a character that is fully and relentlessly herself. To me, this feels like mumblecore all grown up. And that’s not at all a bad thing.

Stories We Tell
(dir: Sarah Polley)
Leave it to the insanely talented Sarah Polley to take personal familial crisis and turn it into one of the year’s most boundary-pushing and moving documentaries. The Canadian director enlists her real family members as storytellers and casts spot-on doppelgangers in 16mm recreations of the family’s remembrances. Polley doesn’t make her family (or herself) out to be saints or sinners, but merely ordinary, complicated people living ordinary, complicated lives.

After Tiller
(dirs: Martha Shane, Lana Wilson)
One of the things I appreciate most in this doc about the potentially explosive topic of late-term abortion is the way it lets all parties involved—doctors, clinic workers, pregnant women and their partners—speak honestly and openly about the complexity of the decisions being made. To preserve their anonymity, the camera focuses on the mothers’ hands and very pregnant bellies while they meet with the doctors. As we watch their fingers fumble with used tissues and their voices crack, it’s not hard to see that nothing about this impossible decision is simple.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints
(dir: David Lowery)
In a movie filled with great performances (Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara) and a sparse but timeless screenplay, the real heart-stopper for me was Bradford Young’s cinematography. The opening scene with the two leads at magic hour in a field is worth the price of admission alone. This was the first time director (and Wisconsin native) Lowery teamed with Young, and I’ve got my fingers crossed it won’t be the last. Their work together is something other-worldly.

(dir: Urusla Meier)
This second feature from Ursula Meier is a huge leap forward for the German director. I really enjoyed her first film Home, but this one held together more solidly from start to finish. It’s an incredibly subtle slow-building movie, but when I got to the last scene, I wanted to sit through it again immediately. It’s the second film on my list shot by Agnes Godard. (Who says women don’t make great cinematographers?)

Upstream Color
(dir: Shane Carruth)
Carruth’s incredible one-man filmmaking show contained one of the most visceral scenes of the year for me. As an audience member, if you could turn off the logic portion of your brain, you were rewarded with a sensory experience like none other. And if you really love watching worms wind a path underneath the skin, then bingo! This is the film for you.

August: Osage County
(dir: John Wells)
For those of you in Milwaukee who have never visited Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater, please make it your New Year’s resolution. Founded by Gary Sinise, Terry Kinney and Jeff Perry, the Steppenwolf has been staging the country’s best theater for years--I personally feel it’s a better bet than Broadway (at a fraction of the price and only an hour away). This film is based on Tracy Letts' multiple-award-winning play that began life at that theater. And woo-hoo, is it a barn-burner. Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep fight. Literally! Like, punches and everything! (See the poster on Milan’s post from yesterday.)

Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker
(dir: Lily Keber)
Watching this doc about New Orleanian piano player James Booker, I kept thinking the same thing over and over: How did I not know this incredible pianist? Shame on me. And thanks to Lily Keber for putting together this portrait of a gripping musician that deserved more time in the sun. Filled with remembrances from a slew of grateful fellow musicians, none moved me more than the stories told by Harry Connick, Jr., which reveal a tender heart and a true genius.

(dir: Aleksander Dovshenko)
This is cheating, I’ll admit. I mean, the film came out in 1930, but I only just got around to watching it in 2013! Without a doubt, one of my favorite cinematic experiences ever was our festival Centerpiece screening this year. Being immersed in Dovshenko’s slightly propagandist film with an original score by the incredible local band Altos was devastating and exhilarating and mesmerizing. I can’t thank them enough for the goosebumps that night.

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Milan, our Marketing Coordinator
• Kyle, our Managing Director
• Kristopher, our Membership Coordinator
• Benjamin, our Development Director
• Anna, our Shorts Programmer
• Angela, our Programming Manager


posted by Milan on December 30th, 2013

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It's not all that surprising to see 1/2 of our marketing department talk about marketing materials instead of films. But Milan's insistence on having his list be about posters stems more from the fact that before he was our Marketing Coordinator, he made his living as a designer and artist, making more posters than he can count for all sorts of shows and events. Here are his ten favorites of 2013, in no particular order.

Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker
(dir. Lily Keber)
Though it was a pleasure using Anton Corbjn’s photo in our promotional materials when this film screened as part of MFF 2013’s Sound Vision program, this poster has been on my “favorites” radar since it was unveiled earlier in the year, and captures the film's subject so incredibly well.

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295 Berberian Sound Studio
(dir. Peter Strickland)
I’m an enormous fan of posters that are tops in both form and function, and Berberian Sound Studio seems to have multiple posters that do just that. This one is my favorite of the bunch.

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296 Ship of Theseus
(dir. Anand Gandhi)
I liked this one, however, because it's just plain beautiful.

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297 The Pervert's Guide to Ideology
(dir. Sophie Fiennes)
Of all the posters hanging in this office,
Akkiko Stehrenberger’s poster for The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is my favorite from MFF 2013. Akkiko's workload this year included posters for Kiss of the Damned, Spring Breakers, and a couple of hilarious ones for Jacob Vaughan’s Bad Milo. She also created posters and one sheets for We Need to Talk About Kevin (MFF 2011) and the second season of Louie. Go on. Bookmark her website. I'll wait.

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298 Oldboy
(dir. Spike Lee)
If you’ve never seen the original
Oldboy, but saw this poster and wondered why in the heck Josh Brolin was popping out of a trunk in the middle of a field where a girl with an umbrella was standing, you should watch the original Oldboy (2003, dir. Park Chan-wook). Spike Lee having his remake's poster reference one of the more peculiar situations in a film full of them made me a little less skeptical of the remake. (Note: I still haven't seen the remake.)

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299 Nebraska
(dir. Alexander Payne)
This poster is a really lovely complement to its film and Bruce Dern’s character. It also constantly reminds me of
the Eraserhead poster for some reason. It was designed by BLT Communications, who did a poster for Blue is the Warmest Color, as well as seemingly every blockbuster feature known to man. (Including those X-Men: Days of Future Past ones I’m admittedly a big fan of.)

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300 The Central Park Five
(dirs. Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon)
This simple concept is so well executed, I hate whoever designed this because they are a gifted genius. 

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301 Blue Caprice
(dir. Alexandre Moors)
Everything about this poster reminds me of exactly how I felt when these shootings were happening in real life. (I'm also a sucker for large amounts of well-used negative space.) And the agency responsible?
Gravillis Inc. They also made posters for MFF 2013 alum Narco Cultura, MFF 2012 alum The Imposter, and one of our most well-received Member Screenings, 20 Feet From Stardom.

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302 August: Osage County
(dir. John Wells)
See that face Juliette Lewis and Abigail Breslin are making? That’s the face I made when I first saw this poster.

This film is so star-studded it should fall victim to that generic Hollywood poster format, where the image is nothing more than a heavily photoshopped arrangement of cast members looking off in arbitrary directions, while the names above are listed in an order determined by contract instead of how they actually appear in said image. Instead, we get this rectangle of awesomeness.

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303 Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
(dir. Molly Bernstein)
This could have gone in a really weird direction, like, say, putting Ricky Jay in a top hat and cape, shuffling cards in mid-air, while grinning like the kind of salespeople you see in terrible stock photography. Instead we get a really tasteful poster for a documentary about the man who's appeared in everything from the
 X-Files to Magnolia, and also happens to be a life-long student of magic tricks, slight of hand, memory feats, and card throwing.

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Kyle, our Managing Director
• Kristopher, our Membership Coordinator
• Benjamin, our Development Director
• Anna, our Shorts Programmer
• Angela, our Programming Manager